Live sheep shipping pause for Middle East-bound voyages is OK

Zach RelphCountryman
Dandaragan sheep producer John Richards.
Camera IconDandaragan sheep producer John Richards. Credit: Bob Garnant/Countryman

A more than three-month pause on WA’s $136 million live sheep shipping industry is better than no shipments at all, according to Mid West sheep producer John Richards.

The Dandaragan farmer has taken a positive outlook on the Federal Government’s shipping restrictions, announced on Tuesday, for this year’s northern hemisphere summer.

Under the decision, live sheep exports to, or through, the Middle East are prohibited from June 1 to September 14.

Additional restrictions have also been imposed for Qatar, with shipping to be halted from May 22 to September 22, and for Oman from May 8 to September 14.

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Despite the looming shipping pause, Mr Richards said he was pleased the industry was able to operate.

Twelve months ago, Mr Richards was among the State’s farmers fearing Labor would come to power at last May’s Federal election and phase out live sheep exports within five years.

But a Coalition Government was formed after the polls and Labor’s threat to end the industry did not come to fruition.

Acknowledging live sheep exports would operate year-round in an ideal scenario, Mr Richards cited last year’s close call and said he was glad Australia would remain a Middle East sheep supplier.

“Live exports are critical — all sheep exports are for that matter — to ensuring sheep farmers have a normal market,” he said.

“Without it, there would be less competition and prices would deteriorate.”

The Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment revealed the new requirements after it finalised its regulation impact statement for the live sheep trade on Tuesday.

The restrictions come after a shipping halt on live sheep voyages was enforced from June 1 to September 22 last year.

Changes were imposed on the trade after 2018’s drama when footage emerged of dead and heat-stressed sheep aboard the Awassi Express.

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